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Stamp Gutter Pairs and Gutter Blocks

Stamp Gutter Block


We will begin this with a description of what they are.
Then we will look into the history of them.
Finally we will look at the rarity. Here we go.


Most people buy stamps over the counter in single issues, booklet panes or small sheetlets or panes. Stamp gutter pairs, gutter blocks and cross gutters are stamps that are divided by a blank space between them. In the majority of cases stamps purchased at your local post offices will not be found in this form.

The gutter is a separator between stamp panes. It is where the panes are cut from the press sheets before being packaged and shipped to your local post offices. The question may be asked..
What are press sheets?
The answer can be found on my page explaining them. Here is the link:

What are Uncut Press Sheets?

Gutter pairs are two stamps separated by a blank space and can be separated with the blank space either vertically or horizontally.
Vertical and Horizontal Stamp Gutter Pairs
Gutter blocks are attached pairs or larger combinations that have this same separation.
Vertical and Horizontal Stamp Gutter Blocks
Cross gutter blocks, some calling them cross gutter or cross-gutter are the center gutters between four panes. The blank spaces run both vertically and horizontally between the stamps and the very center is blank.
Stamp Cross Gutter Block
The question then asked is why do collectors want them?


Gutters between stamps have existed since some of the very earliest stamps ever produced. This mean very early British stamps produced in two panes.

The rarity of these gutters is extreme to say the least and the cost to acquire them today is way beyond the means of most collectors. All gutter pairs and blocks have a rarity factor to this day in that none exist in the same quantities as the issued stamps. It is a fact that only so many gutter pairs and blocks can be made from a pair of panes or from a press sheet whereas a much larger number of the stamps themselves are retained.

The popularity of stamp gutter collecting really stems from the sale of the Farley issues in the United States. Up until that time only specialists had much interest in them for plate reconstruction and other specialized studies that required them. Earlier issues were difficult to find in the form and the cost again was a factor

With the release of the thousands of Farley press sheets in the 1930's the availability of the issues in all sorts of gutter combinations gave general collectors the opportunity to purchase the gutters at affordable costs and thus the collecting of gutter pairs and blocks was born

Postal agencies and bureau's saw the interest and created numerous ways for collectors to gain access to them. Some simply had the printers cut the press sheets as pairs of panes which were sent to the postal bureau's for distribution to the public. Some philatelic agencies would retain limited quantities of the gutters to distribute to various stamp dealers who in turn sold them. In most cases to this day to obtain gutters you have to order them through them. they are not usually found being sold "over the counter" at your local post office.

Stamp agencies in seeing the popularity growing began having the gutters themselves designed and printed with special logo's, vignettes and image labels. Earlier gutters were blanks or may have the printers logo or have color guides, some call them "traffic lights", printed on them. By placing special vignettes and such on the gutters it caused and is causing collectors to buy gutter strips so as to have the whole vignette or set of vignettes or image labels. Basically another tactic used to increase revenues from the issues.

Stamp Gutter Strip with Vignettes
Stamp Gutter Strip with Vignettes
Stamp Gutter Pairs with Image Labels
Stamp Gutter Pairs with Image Labels

The rarity and demand for gutter pairs and blocks is really a mixed bag. Obviously the older issues from most countries are rare and valuable. Issues produced in the 1940's onward are mixed depending on the country of issue. Some producing large quantities of them where others never sold any at all!

In my research on the Format International Security Printers I have found a wide variance for many countries they printed stamps for. Issues such as the 1982 21st Birthday of Princess Diana issues for example where vignette's were ordered by the Crown Agents to be designed and printed on the gutters were massively produced and distributed. They are quite common and available to this day through many sellers.
1982 Diana Stamp Gutter Strip with Vignettes
Yet again, there are issues such as the 1981 Comoro Islands Space Exploration issue where the only gutter pairs that exist came from the one press sheet found in the printers archive. They should be worth a fortune yet because of lack of knowledge collectors don't even know they exist. Thus there is no real demand except from the most savvy of collectors who will get them for practically nothing.

1981 Comoro Islands Space Exploration Stamp Gutter Pairs
I have always stated on many pages that I produce that you the collector really need to do research before investing in any specialized field of stamp collecting. Gutter pairs and blocks are no exception to that rule.
Be aware that there are many sellers out there selling common gutter pairs, gutter blocks and gutter strips for extremely over inflated prices.
On the other hand there are many sellers who sell them for far less than they are really worth! Knowing what you are buying is imperative!

Your friend and fellow collector and researcher

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UPDATED LAST ON: 16-Apr-2020 05:47 AM